Nearly three years ago, the famous Carrie Fisher, who was best known for playing the Star Wars character Princess Leia, unexpectedly died. Today, we know that it wasn’t just caused by one issue, but a combination of many health-related problems that developed over the years, which likely included sleep apnea. There are a variety of dangers that come with this common sleeping condition that impacts a sizable number of adults in the United States. Read on to learn how sleep apnea impacts your health and can triple your risk of dying prematurely.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most prevalent sleeping disorders in the United States, affecting 17.6 million adults across the country. The worst part is, most of those cases go undiagnosed because many people don’t know what signs to look out for.
OSA occurs when too much weight or relaxation causes your throat muscles to collapse, blocking your airway while you sleep. This causes frequent lapses in your breathing throughout the night. One of the most common signs of sleep apnea is chronic, loud snoring. Some other signs that you may have a sleeping condition include:
- Regular fatigue
- Irregular breathing pattern while sleeping
- Dull morning headaches
- High blood pressure
- Nighttime sweating
- Waking up gasping or choking
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Persistent irritability
- Frequent mood changes
How Does Sleep Apnea Impact My Health?
Severe sleep apnea that is left untreated can triple a person’s risk of premature death and increase their chances of developing heart disease by five times compared to someone without this condition. Over the years, countless studies have linked uncontrolled OSA to health risks such as:
- High blood pressure.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Heart disease.
- Increased risk of heart attacks.
- Increased risk of strokes.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Driving and work-related accidents.
If you notice that you’re exhibiting any signs of sleep apnea, immediately visit a sleep specialist so they can so they can perform a sleep test and provide you with a diagnosis. Once you know what’s causing your condition, you’ll be able to seek treatment.
How Can I Treat My Sleeping Condition?
Many patients who suffer from sleep apnea don’t know that their dentist can help them. However, before you can receive treatment, you need to get an official diagnosis from a specialist by completing a sleep study. You can do this by visiting your primary care physician. Once you’ve gotten your diagnosis for obstructive sleep apnea, there are a couple treatment options available to you:
- CPAP: Otherwise known as continuous positive airway pressure, this machine pumps oxygen to open your airways through a small facial mask.
- Oral Appliance Therapy: This treatment uses a custom-crafted retainer-like appliance to open your airways while you sleep.
Sleep apnea can be deadly when it’s left untreated. With oral appliance and CPAP therapy, you can improve your quality of life and make sure you’re getting the best rest possible to reduce your chances of developing serious health conditions down the road. Carrie Fisher’s death has taught everyone that untreated sleeping conditions can play a large role in the decline of our overall wellbeing. To health problems at bay, seek help from your dentist for a custom sleep therapy solution.
About the Author
Dr. Brian Zulawinski has taken several hundred hours of continuing education courses that have largely focused on sleep apnea treatment. He is an active member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and is passionate about improving his patients’ quality of life and wellbeing through custom appliance therapy. For questions or to schedule a sleep screening, visit Sleep Better’s website or call 847-253-7477.